THE WOMAN hoping to win the Redditch Parliamentary seat for Labour has set out a new contract with the people of the town to save the NHS.
Rebecca Blake has chosen to launch the contract today (Friday) as it is six months before voters will go to the polls to choose the country’s next government.
The document, available in full on her website, features six promises which include a pledge to make the NHS a number one priority, guarantee GP appointments within 48 hours, fight to keep services at the Alexandra Hospital and provide fairer access to mental health services.
Labour is also pledging to recruit 3,000 more midwives, 5,000 more homecare workers, 8,000 more GPs and 20,000 more nurses paid for by a Mansion Tax, clamping down on tax avoidance and a tax on tobacco firms.
Suspected cancer patients will also be tested and receive their results within a week.
Ms Blake said the NHS had gone backwards under the current government.
“The NHS is the country’s most important institution, and the Alex is Redditch’s most important asset. That is why I have made protecting our NHS and keeping services at the Alex my top priorities.”
Both of the main parties look set to make the NHS a key battleground at the next General Election and it will be particularly crucial in Redditch with the proposed downgrading of the Alexandra Hospital now not being finalised until after the May poll.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has already indicated he would want the reconfiguration plan to take account of a wider geographic area and would be prepared to call it in, if Labour win in 2015.
The Conservatives are pledging 8am to 8pm and weekend access to GPs by the end of the next Parliament and to ringfence the health budget and to ensure it keeps pace with inflation.
They also argue the only way to ensure the funds are there to pay for the NHS is to have a strong economic plan which they claim Labour lacks.
However both parties pledges have received a mixed response from doctors’ groups with the British Medical Association in particular questioning how they would be achieved in reality.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: “With the NHS facing a perfect storm of rising demand and a £30bn funding shortfall, patients and the public need to see a detailed, meaningful plan from politicians on how they will create a sustainable infrastructure and capacity in general practice to deliver on current and future needs.”